Puerto Rican government officials, academics, and representative voices of the Haitian community on the island received with surprise the news of the assassination of the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, at the hands of a commando-type group that penetrated his private residence with assault weapons, and who supposedly spoke Spanish and English.
First Lady Martine Marie Étienne Joseph Moïse was also injured on the scene, which, it is theorized, is the product of the political, economic, and social instability that has been experienced in the Caribbean country for many years. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world.
“We are dismayed by the violent and tragic event that took place in the early hours of today (yesterday) in the sister republic of Haiti, of whom he served as minister and highest leader of the country. Obviously, both the government of Puerto Rico and the U.S. government are dismayed and we are ready to assist in whatever is necessary within international law to our sister Caribbean country in the spirit of being able to achieve a safe, prosperous and democratic Haiti ,” Félix Lizasuaín Martínez, Assistant Secretary of State, told THE WEEKLY JOURNAL.
The official was concerned about the political and social instability of the neighboring country, but warned that "there should be no space for political, ideological or economic causes to be advanced through the use of violence and terror... We trust that political order can be maintained and that the people, through the ballot box, can choose who will govern the destinies of our sister country."
As a result of what happened, the interim Prime Minister of Haiti, Claude Joseph, decreed a state of siege, which caused the closure of all borders —including the international airport— and the activation of military force.
"There Is a Political Vacuum"
Paul Latortue, an economist and professor at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), lamented that the assassination of the president was the outcome in the midst of an unstable government. However, he pointed out that the Haitian leader had lost the support of his followers after recent actions that he considered dictatorial.
“It is a pity that this is how the government of a president ends. It is never good that it is like this. It is always better that the person ends their time or it is an agreement for the person to leave," he said. “This agreement had already been sought here before, for the president to leave, because he had lost all popularity in the population. He was staying longer than legally agreed, and no one liked that."
The academic observed that the Moïse government was characterized by its intention to hold a referendum to change the Constitution of Haiti and by its dictatorial nature, which caused disagreement among the citizens. His assassination, Latortue added, comes at a time when there is also no clear line of succession in the Haitian government.
"There is a political vacuum. The president of the Supreme Court —who was in succession— died two weeks ago from COVID-19. And the House is not in operation because the president did not hold the elections in his due time. The Senate is empty for the same reason," the professor explained.
Geep Pierre, a Haitian pastor who has lived in Puerto Rico for 25 years, opined that Moïse's murder is not only reprehensible, but it will also aggravate the problems that afflict the nation.
“That event is against the Law of God, the 10 commandments of the Lord, which one is, thous shall not kill. It is something that is not good in the sight of God, neither mine, nor humanity. Perhaps there is a group that thinks that to establish order in the country, that is the way according to them, but that is not the true and good and democratic way. That act is not going to solve the problem in Haiti, but it will cause more difficulty,” said Pierre, who is a pastor of the Adventist church.
Pierre is concerned about the development of the situation in Haiti, since he understands that the consequences of this murder have repercussions among the low-income population.
“From now on we listen to the president of the Dominican Republic, who closed the border. That means that something like this paralyzes the country, and who suffers the most? The poor. Those who do not have something to eat every day. With this act, the people suffer more,” said Pierre, who hopes that Puerto Rico will maintain its tradition of solidarity towards Haiti and help in any way possible.
Points to Corruption
The president of the Dominican Committee for Human Rights in Puerto Rico, José Rodríguez, argued that the humanitarian crisis faced by Haitians is fueled by frequent acts of corruption and drug trafficking.
"Haiti is a country where guns drift in the streets. Haiti is a bridge for drugs that cross into the Dominican Republic and then go to the United States. Well, it is suspected that this group that killed him are paid mercenaries, and then the town is the one affected," he stated.
Rodríguez also opined that developed nations like France and the U.S. mainland have "sacked" Haiti.
"This man was an illegal president and he was massacring the people. They were murdering human rights activists, and five had already been executed in the street. This was a tyrant, although death is regrettable," he added.